Ex-NBA player Kermit Washington was indicted by a federal jury on charges that he dodged tax payments and swindled donors who supported his charity, USA Today is reporting.
Washington faces over 40 years in prison if he is convicted of the four charges that have been brought up against him. The charges include obstruction and aggravated identity theft, corrupt interference with internal revenue laws, as well as conspiring to commit wire fraud. He is also subject to a fine of $1 million.
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Washington raised close to $200,000 in donations marked out for two charity projects he ran in Africa: The 6th Man Foundation and Project Contact Africa. The projects were active between 2010 and 2015.
Prosecutors allege that instead of helping the needy and underprivileged as was promised, the ex-NBA star diverted the money to cover his personal expenses. The 64-year-old, who was meant to put all donations into Africa, allegedly used the money to buy jewelry, pay his rent, and fund his vacations. Apart from diverting the money to personal gain, Washington allegedly also filed fake income tax return documents between 2010 and 2013.
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U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Tammy Dickson, said, “Washington profited by diverting hundreds of dollars in donations that were supposed to benefit a clinic in Africa for needy families and children, but instead bankrolled his own personal spending.”
Washington was picked up by police in Los Angeles.
He is also answering to charges involving Pro Football Hall of Famer and former professional athlete, Ron Mix. Mix, now an attorney based in San Diego, made over $155,000 in donations to Washington’s two charities in exchange for referrals from former pro athletes who needed to file compensation cases in California. Mix agreed Monday to pay $50,000 to the Internal Revenue Service for false charitable deductions and pleaded guilty to a one-count charge of creating false statements in a tax return. He faces up to three years in prison.
Washington and alleged partner in crime, Reza Davachi, also allegedly used PayPal and eBay to fraudulently and unjustly enrich themselves. According to an indictment, Washington gave items to Davachi to sell through his charity merchant accounts using third party payment processors PayPal and eBay. Because the items were being sold on a non-profit website, the men did not pay listing and transaction fees. This helped them save hundreds of thousands of dollars. The former basketball player is also being accused in a federal criminal court of allegedly selling phony computer products from the websites.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline Ciraolo said in a statement that “individuals who use charitable organizations to defraud donors and evade tax obligations inflict substantial harm on every U.S. taxpayer and cause untold damage to well-intentioned charitable endeavors.” She continued, “the Department of Justice is committed to identifying those engaged in such criminal conduct and holding them accountable.”
Washington played professional basketball for more than a decade. He is best remembered for “The Punch,” an on-court altercation during a basketball game in 1977. Tempers had flared during a game between the Houston Rockets and L.A. Lakers. Rudy Tomjanovich, a Houston Rockets player, had rushed to the aid of a teammate who was squaring up against another L.A. Lakers player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Washington, playing for the Lakers, had joined the fray by delivering a vicious right hand punch to Tomjanovich’s face. The powerful blow fractured the nose, jaw and skull of the Houston Rockets player and even sent spinal fluid pouring from his mouth. You can watch Kermit Washington’s most famous NBA moment here.
[Photo by AP Photo/Jack Smith, File]